Thursday

24th Aug 2017

Opinion

Nato puts brakes on enlargement

  • Just like the European Union, it seems that Nato is also suffering from enlargement fatigue (Photo: Nato)

Nato announced earlier this July that it is shelving plans to welcome any new members during its forthcoming Wales summit.

The hopes of four countries - Bosnia, Macedonia, Georgia and Montenegro – which were expecting to deepen their co-operation with Nato, are now all but dashed, as senior Nato officials have hit the pause button on future enlargement.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Just like the European Union, it seems that Nato is also suffering from enlargement fatigue.

Unlike the Union though, Nato is shying away from even awarding the equivalent of the EU’s association agreement, namely the Membership Action Plan (MAP), to Georgia, over fears of provoking Moscow’s ire.

For all the aggressive rhetoric deployed during the Ukraine crisis, Nato seems to refuse to walk the walk.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, its outgoing secretary general, said recently that Russia is no longer a reliable partner for the West. But, apparently, nor is the West for its allies most exposed to Russia’s whims.

On top of that, France shows no signs of backing down on plans to deliver two Mistral-class frigates to Russia and (potentially) its Black Sea Fleet.

The €1.2 billion contract will endow Moscow with substantial firepower, as one Mistral can single-handedly overpower the navies of Romania or Georgia.

Admiral Vysotsky, the commander in chief of the Russian navy, even boasted that if Russia had had one such frigate at the time, the Georgian war would have ended in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.

After Nato’s Bucharest summit of 2008, when Georgia was promised full membership within an unspecified timeframe, Georgia has been a faithful ally of the West, committing, for example, the largest non-Nato contingent to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

Instead of the long-sought MAP, it will in Wales receive a “substantial package”, including training programmes and advice along with a “detailed checklist” of what the country should do to gain membership.

In Bosnia’s case, the alliance said that it is waiting for the country “to make progress in the process of becoming an Alliance member”, even though Ole-Asbjorn Fauske, a deputy commander at Nato’s Sarajevo headquarters has said that “almost all conditions for activating the MAP” have been fulfilled.

The official invoked the country’s lack of “registration of military property in state institutions” as the main obstacle.

In Macedonia’s case, its foreign minister told the Associated Press that the Nato decision “was a step backward”, although prospects for full membership are unclear, given Greece’s long-standing name dispute with its neighbour.

The situation is different in the Baltic states. On top of a tripling of the number of Nato fighters deployed there, a new airbase just opened in Estonia, which will be used for Nato exercises and training.

In a festive 4 July atmosphere, the US ambassador to Estonia declared that “in the last four months, we have had boots on the ground, planes in the air and ships at sea”.

His comments almost overshadowed statements by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite that Russia has offered to reduce oil and gas prices for the Baltic countries if they terminated their Nato membership.

In this ambivalent context, it should come as no surprise to the West to witness a decline in pro-Nato sentiment in the four aspirant countries in the Balkans and South Caucasus, who sided with the West only to receive empty words in exchange.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, Nato has looked to find a new strategic imperative.

As Europeans turned their focus inwards, defence spending and defence capabilities decreased dramatically.

Germany’s experience in Afghanistan, where it couldn’t deploy its much-needed helicopters because they were lacking sand filters, has become one ancedote among many of European underperformance. Calls to disband Nato, unthinkable in the past, have multiplied.

When Russia annexed Crimea, Nato failed to make itself heard, as heads of state chose either the European Union or their national platforms to express their views.

Despite all this, Nato is still a symbol of the West.

Unlike the Warsaw Pact, it has weathered the 1989 moment and has deployed an increasing number of missions, albeit with modest results.

But looking at events cynically, perhaps the four aspirant countries would be better off without membership.

With the West’s failure to stop Russian action in Crimea, or for that matter in Georgia in 2008, what makes us believe that Nato would jump to the rescue in the event of a new Russia-Georgia war?

In the end, Nato membership could very well be more of a cost than a benefit in 2014.

The writer is a freelance political consultant and blogger based in Slovakia

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Macron goes east to test appetite for EU integration

The next few months will be decisive in selecting who stays in the core of the EU and who stays behind, writes Tomas Prouza, a former state secretary for European Affairs of the Czech Republic.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead